If you love camping as much as I do, you do not want to stop exactly when the temperatures fall. Fortunately, there is no need to pack the equipment for good. Here are some kind guides about how to enjoy camping in autumn.
1. Check in advance
Some campsites are only open during the summer months (usually Memorial Day by Labor Day). Before you embark on your adventure, call to make sure your favorite destination is open in autumn. Check the weather as well. You can see rain in the forecast and decide to bring an extra tarp or other supplies. The idea here is prepared for what lies ahead.
2. Leave early
On our first autumn camping trip, we went too late into the day. When we went to the campsite, it was dark and we tugged around with our tent with spotlights. Remember that autumn and winter mean fewer hours in the sun. So, plan accordingly and leave plenty of daylight hours for setup. Check out the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sunrise and sunset calculator.
3. Dress for success
Layers are the key when camping in the cold. I always said that I should stay away from cotton because it can absorb sweat and make you wet. Try to dress in layers. Start with an inner base layer, a warming middle layer (or two, depending on the temperature), and an outer wind or moisture protection layer. Moisture absorbing fabrics are best, so stick with synthetic fibers or even a light wool.
4. Pick up accessories
Together with the layering, you should not forget your head, hands, and feet. Bring many gloves, socks, hats, slippers and other accessories. I like fleece because it is cozy and soft. This DIY fleece storm hood would make a perfect travel companion. You need 3/4 of a yard of fleece fabric and lace. Cut three rectangles from your fabric, sew them together and thread your lace through the canal.
5. Bag it
Check your compact sleeping bag for the temperature class. You might find that yours is not suitable for cold weather – the number usually indicates the lowest temperature that is comfortable in the bag. I like to be warmer than most, so I have a bag that I camp in summer and one for the event. I also prefer mom style bags because they leave less room for escape air.
Skip bulky blankets in your sleeping bag. You will actually work against your mission to stay warm. A compact sleeping bag liner provides an additional protective layer (like a bed sheet) and will work with your body warmth to create a comfortable sleeping temperature.
6. Pack a mattress
I also sleep on a travel cot or at least a camping mattress to enter excess moisture from my sleeping bag. I used a yoga mat in a pinch. The bonus here is that the mat will create a barrier between you and the damp, cool floor. It’s just so comfortable. If you can, try to lay a tarp in front of the pad for extra protection.
7. Add heat
My husband taught me a cool trick he’d learned when he was a kid. Fill a hot water bottle or even a Nalgene with warm water and place it in your sleeping bag. You can always refill with warm water if you are particularly cold. We use this method even on cold nights in our house. Just make sure the seal is solid so the water does not soak you. And the HotHands hand warmers, which you use on ski trips, are also invaluable on camping trips.
8. Sip Often
Another easy way to heat your core is to drink hot drinks. Keep a water cooker so there is always hot water to make tea, coffee, hot chocolate or instant soup. While you’re at it, take care of your fluid intake. Even if it’s cold and you’re not obviously sweating, you can easily be dehydrated with activity.
9. Cook slowly
If you are lucky enough to have a campsite with electricity, you should bring your slow cooker to make the meal easier. In this way, you can simmer warm and nourishing food together, and the campfire can keep everything to itself. For obvious reasons, choose a stove with a lockable lid. Tent campers want to bring a long extension cable. (If you camp in Pearland, you would like to skip this tip!)
10. Test it
One of the best advice I’ve ever had was to test our equipment before we went on a long journey. I set up camp in the backyard and felt sort of silly about it. Well, it was a good thing we did because we were missing an essential support for our tent. If you’ve never camped in the autumn before, you might even want to sleep a night in familiar territory to make sure you have everything you need to be comfortable.
Are you a fall camper? What tricks have you learned to stay warm, dry, and safe?